Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fischer – Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 ‘Pathetique’ (2016)
SF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz | Time – 58:02 minutes | 2,31 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: nativeDSDmusic | Digital Booklet | © Channel Classics Records B.V.B.V.
When Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky stepped onto the stage in Saint Petersburg on 28 October 1893 to introduce his Sixth Symphony to the public, he was received with a roar of applause. Less than an hour later the astonished audience was left dumbfounded. How could a symphony begin so softly and end even softer? And what about the second movement, with its undanceable waltz, and the third one with its unstoppable march? Nine days after the premiere, Tchaikovsky died in a city ravaged by cholera. Tchaikovsky himself considered the symphony to be the best he had ever written, and with it he said farewell to music, indeed to life itself. Rumours have never ceased to circulate about this unexpected end. For example, according to a controversial theory of the Russian musicologist Alexandra Orlova, the composer was forced to commit suicide. A secret council of honour is said to have sentenced Tchaikovsky thus because of a scandalous relationship with his young nephew; that he was reported to have died of cholera was no more than a pretence to conceal the true course of events. This theory has since been refuted. When the composer drunk a glass of unboiled water in the company of his brother Modest and nephew Vladimir Davidov, who warned him of the dangers, he replied “I am not afraid of cholera.” Did he know what he was doing? Is this the import of the dark, deathly sound of the menacing bassoons at the beginning of the symphony? Was the Pathétique indeed his message of farewell? And especially the final movement, Adagio, with its downward pull, in which all that holds on to life is swallowed up as if by a morass? Depressions overshadowed not only Tchaikovsky’s final years, but much of his life as well. Among the reasons for this was his homosexuality. In his younger years he was very nearly driven to suicide by an unhappy marriage, which was dissolved on medical advice. In his last symphony, the tragedy of the composer’s life seems to be captured in music.
Iván Fischer has made some first rate Tchaikovsky recordings. This isn’t one of them. At just about every point he seems uninterested, even embarrassed by the music’s raw intensity and expressive range. Granted, it’s entirely possible and legitimate to treat the work as something more than an essay in sweaty hysteria. Pletnev (in his first recording for Virgin Classics) and Markevitch found plenty of balletic elegance and grace in the music, all without compromising its more feverish thrills. But this version is just boring and undercharacterized.
Where to begin? The backwardly balanced and timid brass? Fischer’s oddly inapt rush through the great exordium in the first movement recapitulation–perhaps the single greatest climax in the entire symphony? The rigid and dull second movement; the cautious scherzo? Fischer takes great pains over string sonority. The lyrical moments in the opening movement and finale are lovely, but it’s simply not enough to make the complete package worth a second glance.
Nor does the coupling, an unspectacular version of the Polovtsian Dances with their silly choral parts reinstated, make this release any more desirable. Even Channel Classics’ sonics, usually so reliable, seem uncharacteristically diffuse. Pass on this one. –David Hurwitz, Classics Today
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B-Minor Op.74 ‘Pathétique’ (1893)
1 Adagio-Allegro non troppo 18.28
2 Allegro con grazia 7.48
3 Allegro molto vivace 9.44
4 Adagio lamentoso 10.13
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)
5 Prince Igor: Choral Dance No.17 (Polovtsian Dances) 11.49
Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor
Recorded: Palace of Arts, Budapest, January 2014